UCCF: The Christian Unions has launched Theology Network, its new theology website, aiming to provide high-quality theological resources in the same way that Bethinking provides apologetics resources. Naturally there’s a fair bit of overlap, and a lot of the content was already available from Bethinking and websites like the European Leadership Forum Resources site and the main UCCF site, but there’s also some new stuff and it brings a lot of good material together in a nice package. There aren’t any discussion forums, which is a bit of a pity, so I’ve set up a Facebook group for people to discuss the site.
One article that caught my attention is Thinking Christianly about Politics. Christian political philosophy is a very neglected subject, so it’s good to read an article on it. One of the issues that I found interesting was whether or not politics is part of the Creation order:
On this question we find a long-standing and fundamental divergence within Christian thinking between followers of Augustine (including most of the magisterial Reformers) and followers of Thomas Aquinas (such as most mainstream Roman Catholic thought). Augustine (354-430) cites God’s command in Gen.1:26 and asserts that God “did not wish the rational being, made in his own image, to have dominion over any but irrational creatures, not man over man, but man over the beasts”. His position is therefore clear: Politics is not part of God’s good created order; it is instituted by God but only as his response to human sin. In contrast, Aquinas (1225-74) in his Summa Theologica clearly answers that “even in the state of innocence, some men would have exercised control over others”.
From the text of Genesis alone, it seems to me to be unclear whether or not political authority structures would have existed. On the one hand, it seems to me that in an ideal, unfallen world, people would be able to work out their differences in a satisfactory way on a voluntary basis. There would be no need for taxes, for example, because people would willingly pool their resources, give to those in need, and so on. On the other hand, authority is not inherently bad. God has divine authority, and it is in principle good. So there’s no reason why in an unfallen world, political authority could have been exercised in a rightful way. Something to think about further.
On the subject of politics, I’ve also been reading some material from the blog of David Field, who lectures at Oak Hill Theological College, such as his essay on “Samuel Rutherford and the Confessionally Christian state“, which is very thought-provoking. He argues that Christians should seek a state which is explicitly Christian in its constitution, and I find his arguments very strong. But unless the vast majority of our country converts to Christianity, I don’t see how it relates to how we practise politics in our current situation where committed Christians are firmly in the minority.
Anyway, Theology Network has plenty of articles I want to read and talks I want to listen to, so should be keeping me busy for quite a while! I’m also making a visit to L’Abri again next week (sadly all-too-brief), which I’m really looking forward to.